Most of my career I have heard my profession referred to as the “Loss Prevention Industry” somewhat routinely by many of my peers and fellow retail loss prevention professionals. A very curious description that apparently reflects a need by some to inaccurately describe what we do. At some level you could argue to challenge this notion is splitting hairs and not worth the debate. I disagree, how we define ourselves creates perceptions on how others perceive our value and the role we play in the industry we serve.
If asked by a perfect stranger to describe what I do, my response is I am a retail professional providing loss prevention expertise to my employer. In the unlikely event they push for a more expansive description I would add; a retail generalist with a specific expertise in the application of loss prevention best practices across “all” retail functional areas to help reduce loss, protect assets and ultimately help my company improve profitability. With a clear understanding it is a vital support function to help directly and indirectly improve earnings. The key concept being an important strategic contributor to a retail organization by helping drive improved earnings through the application of my specific expertise to the Retail Industry.
By suggesting we work in the “Loss Prevention Industry” distances us from the goals and objectives of the industry we serve. By purporting we operate within our own Industry we are implying we have our own goals and objectives, which may or may not be aligned with our employer. Which is clearly not the case and all you need to do to remind yourself of that is look at the name of the employer on your paycheck. Or work for a retailer during a period of poor comp sales regardless of the shrink results and see what happens to the loss prevention budget.
At some level you could argue this need by some to set loss prevention apart from the industry we serve is akin to the “Napoleon Complex”; a short male who overcompensates for his lack of height with an overly aggressive demeanor to mask his feelings of inferiority. Possibly the lack of appreciation/contribution some LP professionals may feel from their employer plays a role in this desire to position loss prevention outside of retail. Over the years many of us have heard comments by our peers about the desire to be a strategic contributor by having “a seat at the table” or the lament that the “C” level Executive “just doesn’t get what we do”. This clearly does not apply to all loss prevention professionals and there are numerous examples of LP Directors achieving a strategic role for their company. However, this feeling of a lack of appreciation or understanding is common enough that many hear it early in their careers.
Whether these feelings of under appreciation or lack of understanding of the contribution loss prevention makes to the retail industry is an underlying contributor to creating this notion of the “Loss Prevention Industry” isn’t really the issue. To embrace this false concept of a “Loss Prevention Industry” is! By knowingly separating yourself from the industry you “do” work in only serves to marginalize your real contribution. By embracing this idea of a Loss prevention Industry you create a perception of value by those outside your profession which undermines your contribution.
As retail professionals we work in an industry that is the largest contributor to US economy in both revenue and jobs. It is a very competitive and challenging business environment to be successful in. It also attracts many of the best and brightest entrepreneurs in the US today to meet the ever changing demands of a market economy which responds to the rapidly changing needs of the consumer. I would encourage all of us who have an expertise in loss prevention to take great pride in being retailers first by remembering we provide a vital function to our employer and the Retail Industry we serve.
Written by Steven P. May, CFI
President & CEO, LP Innovations, Inc.